A real estate agent who knows the area like the back of her hand can make all the difference in finding the perfect home. She’ll have the inside scoop on every nook and cranny of the area, which means you’ll reap many benefits during your home search. Here’s how having a geographically savvy agent is a total game changer.
If you are moving to a place where you already know people, ask them for real estate agent referrals. Check these agents’ online reviews to see what others say about them. Narrow your list to three or four agents, and schedule appointments to meet with them to find the one who’s most knowledgeable.
If you don’t know people in the area you are moving to, search online for good agents and brokerage firms, again using reviews to help you select the best.
What your real estate agent should know about the area
The agent you select should know the following about your target area.
- Home values. Every agent should know comparable values in specific subdivisions and the broader area where you are looking.
- Local schools. Your agent should know all about the area’s public school districts as well as the elementary, middle and high schools that kids in particular neighborhoods attend. She should also know about the area’s private schools, including how much they cost.
- Local shopping. Your agent should know about local grocery shopping, clothing, furniture and more.
- Insurance. Homeowner policies can be significantly higher in areas of elevated risk, such as coastal hurricane zones. Your agent should be able to tell you if an area is prone to severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail or whether there is an earthquake risk.
- Unique building codes. Areas that are higher risk could also have specialized building code requirements, such as hurricane strapping for roof structures or reinforced strapping for the framing of foundations in earthquake-prone areas.
- Zoning laws. Are there zoning laws that could impact property values? Your agent should know, for example, whether there are commercial zones nearby or proposed changes to zoning that could affect residential areas.
- Future developments. Your agent should be aware of future residential and commercial developments as well as road construction that could impact a home you might be considering.
- Homeowners associations (HOAs). An agent should know whether there is an HOA for each neighborhood and be familiar with the rules buyers need to know. For example, if you’re interested in buying a home to use as an Airbnb, your agent needs to know whether a particular HOA allows short-term rentals.
- Local mortgage lenders. Your agent should know local mortgage lenders, who themselves should know the housing market in your area. A knowledgeable agent and lender can help you make the best decisions.
- Property taxes. The agent should have an excellent working knowledge of property taxes and appraisals in the area. She should also know the district lines that divide different jurisdictions from one another.
An agent who is an expert in these areas will give you confidence that you’ll be making a fully informed decision about buying a home.